Connecting the Dots

I secretly have a crush on one of the areas of the Cascades. It is a space between Mt Hood and Mt Jefferson called the Bull of the Woods. I repeatedly find myself and my backpacking traipsing through the lush forest, hopping over creeks and enjoying the endless display of natural beauty.

IMG_0638Last week, I took a friend into the woods with me. We left after work Tuesday evening (10:00 PM) and got to a base camp in the Bull of the Woods around 1:00. We set up tent and tucked into our sleeping gear for a night’s sleep. At around 3:00am, we realized it had started to snow. It was a light accumulation which was a pleasure to wake up to.

IMG_0705We woke up later than we had anticipated, ate a delicious breakfast of a fried egg in a tortilla wrap, had some hot coffee and packed up the tent into our packs. It took about another 20 minutes to get to the Pansy Basin trailhead.

IMG_0633From Pansy Basin Trail, we climbed up trail # 551 to #549 to #550. We stopped at the boarded up Lookout Tower. There were a lot of clouds so the view was less than stellar. We then hiked down trail #554 to #553 and camped at Big Slide Lake. As it was mid-week, there were no other humans around. We spent the afternoon eating lots of food and playing cards.

IMG_0672The following day, the sun came out and we were blessed with some blue skies! We climbed back up to the tower for some spectacular views. The panoramic picture shows the mountains from Mt Rainier in WA all the way down to the Three Sisters in central/south Oregon. (Click on the photo, then enlarge it. You’ll have a great picture of the cascade mountain range)

IMG_0639From the tower, we headed down towards Welcome Lakes and the Mother Lode on trail #558, then caught trail #551 back to Pansy Basin. We camped at the lake. It was beautiful and quiet. We had guests show up later in the evening with their extremely friendly and adventurous dogs. They camped at one of the spots closer to the trailhead.

Pansy Lake

Pansy Lake


The following morning, we packed up early and headed back to the trailhead, then back to the city to go to work.

Big Slide Lake

Big Slide Lake

Big Slide Lake

Big Slide Lake

This trek connected a lot of the other trails I had already been through, thus completing most of the trails section I’ve already trekked in the Bull of the Woods. Two more trails to go and I will have completed the whole area.

I love wilderness escapes!IMG_0699

Happy Trekking!

Denny & SamIMG_0658 IMG_0627


PCT Hike – Day 17 – The Last Day

PCT Day 16Up and at em! It is just dawn and though I didn’t get much shut eye, I feel rested, and excited to get a move on. Camp is basically packed and I only need to squeeze into my boots for just a few more miles.

Approaching Mt. Hood is fascinating. You walk along a ridge line, one of the arms of Mt. Hood and through the trees you can see the beautiful treeless peak of Mt. Hood. In and out of the trees you go as you climb up and up towards the Timberline.

Mt Hood

As you get closer to the mountain you begin to see Timberline Lodge and the ski areas. You can also depict the hiking trails that go through the timberline area. There was one very scary moment climbing up the side of the mountain where erosion had the path just a few feet away from a major drop off down to White River.


The sun was just coming upon the horizon line as I passed through the timberline into the upper part of Mt Hood. I turned around and as I did a great hawk flew over greeting the sunrise in a morning screech. I followed her flight South and my eyes fell upon Mt Jefferson. Okay, I may have cried a couple of quick sobby sobs, but it was kind of intense and amazing to know that I hiked all the way from Crater Lake.

Timberline Lodge

I arrived at Timberline Lodge around 7:45 in the morning, and made my way around to the front of the lodge so I could walk through the front doors. Timberline lodge is a beautiful hand crafted mountain lodge. It is a sight to behold in both it’s craftsmanship and it’s presence. I entered the lodge with a smile on my face and made my way over to the concierge desk. I was greeted warmly by a young man and woman.

I let them know I had just come off of the PCT and that I would be picked up this afternoon by a friend here at the lodge as this was my destination. I asked if they had a spare charger to charge my phone, and she did, so she took my phone and plugged it in the next room. I could hear the satisfactory BUZZ all the way at the desk. I asked if they still did their lunch buffet, which they did, however their breakfast buffet had just started and was going until 10:00! YES! The next thing I asked for was if it was possible to take a shower. The outdoor shower by the ski area was still open, though the water would be cold. That was better than nothing. Though, in the kindness of a stranger, I was offered one of the hot showers in the lodge. I was so grateful.

I got into the beautifully old tiled bathroom and stripped off my clothes. WHEW – I stank! I hadn’t been in a clean enclosed space in weeks and the amount of stink on me was incredible. I began washing my clothing in the sink so that I would have something clean to put on after I showered. After my clothes and flip flops were washed, I un-bandaged my feet and got into the shower. Hot, steamy, running water. YES PLEASE. It was delightful. I scrubbed and washed and scrubbed some more. It was so rewarding. I dried off with a clean fluffy towel and smiled at the stranger that was in the mirror. WOW – I am skinny! My waistline is quite small. My legs look great and thick. My abs are all sorts of ripple without any fat and my arms are tone from lifting that heavy bag and using the trekking poles.

With a clean fresh body and clean’ish clothing, I repacked my pack and headed to the restaurant. A full breakfast buffet! YUMMY! Eggs, Eggs with cheese, toast, potatoes, pancakes, french toast, waffles, fruit, pastries and delicious coffee. I ate everything. It was so delicious.

I retrieved my phone from the wonderful hosts and sent a note to Mom and Tim letting them know I was at the lodge. Tim was at work and said he would leave early to come and get me. I hung out in the lodge for only a couple of hours. I ran into the brothers who were on their second day of relaxing as they had arrived the day before. They were heading into the lunch buffet.

I feel great, alive, accomplished. My body feels strong and my feet did not get destroyed today. I have two purple toenails, one is light plum, the other is dark. Not sure if I will lose them (I did lose one, and the other seems not far away).

I feel elated, but perhaps it’s all of the coffee. I could use a big fat nap. I am scruffy. This is the most beard I’ve ever had. I will manscape a bit tomorrow to see what it looks like. It is far past the itchy stage of growth, so I could do whatever I wanted with it.

It is a little chilly here. The elevation and the change of season. It is quite nice really.

I am grateful that I got to share my adventures with you. I look forward to sharing other adventures and reviewing gear as I go along.

Happy Trekking!

Denny – aka Gemini

Clean Denny


PCT Hike – Day 13

PCT Day 13

It was a beautiful morning to wake up at Jefferson Park. A bit on the cool side and Mt Jefferson was wearing a morning cloud hat – a cap cloud!

Jefferson ParkThe Sun rose over the East side of the lake illuminating the mountain in an early morning glow. As the Sun began to shine on me, I noticed a growing buzzing behind me. I looked down at the ground and saw that there was a small hole with yellow jackets coming out to greet the morning rays.

Jefferson Hat

I do believe I packed up more quickly than any other camp spot I’ve been in. Though I’m not allergic to yellow jackets, I have no interest in hanging around the entry to their hive as they are coming out for the day. I am definitely going to go back to Jefferson Park for more exploration.

My feet were not happy going into my boots. They were swollen still and my right pinky toe was already pressing up against the side of my boot. I’m hoping that today has a lot of UP and not very much DOWN as the down part is where my feet jam into the front of my boot.

Color Path

I am heading to Olallie Lake Resort today to pick up my Cache drop that a friend of mine delivered for me. It should not be too long of a trek to get there, and depending on the resort, I may stay the night.

As I got onto the PCT, I noticed the track marks of the Brothers. My first inclination was hoping that they at least stopped to camp in Jefferson Park and that they did not just hurry on through it to put in miles. There are some spots worth stopping for. I actually caught up with them after climbing up to the first ridge line and they said they had camped just south of the Park the night before. They were also headed to Olallie to stop at the little store and have lunch. I’d see them there.

Color Path 3Down I went out of Jefferson Park over some glacial snow and into the woods. It was a meandering kind of day and the Sun was going in and out of the clouds. It was also a beautiful part of the wild. I stopped for a snack of dried mango and granola a few miles before Olallie on the other side of Olallie lake. No sooner did I have two pieces of mango, did the asshole birds show up! So I didn’t stay long, but put my pack back on and headed down hill. The brothers caught up to me and skirted past while I was busy taking pictures. The misty weather made all of the colors jump out. It was impossible not to snap shots!

Fog Path

The weather had shifted and the misty clouds had rolled in filling empty spaces with a foggy depth. It was a welcome change to the mostly consistent blue and sunny skies that I had been experiencing for the past two weeks. TWO WEEKS. Wow, it doesn’t seem like it could be that long already, yet it’s amazing how far I’ve trekked in such a short period of time.

I got to Olallie Lake Resort around 1:30 and the cute little store they had with a bunch of hiker treats was being run by a new owner, Diane. She was sweet as pie. She informed me that my friends were up in the kitchen making their lunch out of the rain which had just started. So I did some shopping in the store (snickers bars, potato chips, cookies, fruit leather and any other fattening items I could find). I still can’t believe how much weight I’ve lost.

My Cache box was up in the kitchen and it was a pleasure to unpack. I totally spoil myself. I packed myself $50.00, some ramen (which I would be eating that evening in the cold, wet day), a happy cookie, another pop-tart, another dark chocolate cheesecake package and a bunch more goodies besides food. I had also packed enough food for about a week and I still had some left over. So, I sorted through all of my items and packed what I would need for the next four days plus one extra (just in case), and told the boys they could take whatever they wanted from the remainder. They grabbed themselves a couple of goodies and I put the rest in the PCT Hiker box hoping that someone coming through could use it.

To say those chips tasted good would be a complete lie. They tasted AWESOME. As did the double chocolate chip cookie.

Top Lake

My pack felt light, even after the cache pickup, so I was quite pleased. It was still quite early in the day, and the resort did not have PCT Camping spots, so off I went. There was one spot just North of the resort overlooking a lake, but after contemplating camping there for about 10 minutes, I decided to put in a few more miles.

Pathway 1

The next section of the trail was densely wooded and very quiet. I didn’t see anyone, or hear much of anything except the occasional scurrying of an animal. After a few miles I took out my maps and saw that there was a trail to a lake a couple of miles up on the PCT. There are usually camping spots around lakes even if they aren’t marked on the map, so when I got to the junction for Russ Lake, I took it. It was 1/4 mile to the lake. My feet were already cranky, but the side trail was easy to go along. When I got to the lake, I noticed a small trail off to the right, and my intuitive nudge pulled me along that trail, up a small hill and put me on a ridge line between TWO lakes. Just a few short strides along the ridge line and there were two great camping spots waiting for me. I took the smaller one that was nestled in the trees between the two.

I heard a lot of animal noises that evening, which didn’t surprise me as there was an abundance of unmanned wooded area all around. The ramen I packed was absolutely delicious, and such a complete change from all of the heavier dense meals I had been eating. The broth was warming and quite tasty.

Camp Russell LakeI decided that it was time to dismantle my toenails. They were already cut down short, but I took out my fingernail file and filed them down to nubs. I have no idea it this will work, but I really need to relieve the pressure of the boot hitting the toenail. First Aid for the evening – CHECK!

Today I thought a lot about things to do when I get back home. I will rearrange my room (which I typically do in the Spring and Autumn. I am compiling a winter movie watch list. The cooking/baking list keeps getting bigger. Work on my 2nd book (first book by the way was Mirror/Mirror – A Holistic Approach to Living Well). The 2nd book is an 8 week life change course book based on a program I created in my business Peaceful Roots and have been teaching since 2007 called Fit Club. My journal is filling up with a lot To DO list and I’m very excited to get at it!

As it goes on trail, early to bed, early to rise!

mm 2042-2057, 15 mile day

Happy Trails,


PCT Hike – Day 12


The things one focuses on the most end up becoming one’s belief systems, and once those are established, they are very difficult to readjust, change or break down.” – From the Spirit of the Trail – Gemini


PCT Day 12I awoke this morning bright and early and to a general BUZZ of life around me. After I got out of my tent, I realized that there were an abundance of Yellow Jackets swooping around. They seemed to be quite attentive to my tent. I didn’t hang around long. I had my camp coffee, oatmeal and my morning movement, then hit the trail.

According to my maps, today would continue a descent around the back side of Three Finger Jack with a long low-lands trek, then an upward and circumnavigation of the Western side of Mt Jefferson (one of my favorite mountains in the Cascade Range).


I passed through some amazing wilderness today. My left foot is being quite the crank. Toes, heel, achilles and now my left quad is cramping up consistently. Oi! I’m doing more hobbling than I am trekking. There were also a lot of spider webs today as we had some misty raindrops last night.

I met a young man on trail today, Travertine, who was heading south on the PCT. Bright, energetic, insightful, journal writing adventurer who is out for one year in the wild to find himself. Kudos to him for his journey.

CrossingThere was one “creek” crossing along the way that left me doubting whether or not I’d survive. The water from the glaciers was coming down hard and fast, and it was no mere creek. If the depth of the Russell Creek were a river, these would be at least a class 5 rapid. There was even a warning on my map that said, “Milky glacial water, can be dangerous crossing.” The big boulder in the picture that sits in the middle of the creek towards the end of the trail was bigger than I was. I actually walked up and down the side of the trail looking for the best cross-over point, second guessing every potential pass over. Eventually I just had to cross. I knew that if I fell in, not only would I be wet, but I would be tossed down the creek a bit before I could get my footing again. In terms of “danger” on the trail, this was the most dangerous part of the trail I experienced (besides the possibility of getting hit with a stray bullet).

I got to Jefferson Park mid-day. This is definitely the most stunning environment of my journey to date and I will be coming back here again just to spend some days exploring this part of the wilderness.


I am camped on the North side of the park next to Russell Lake. To say the view is stunning would be an understatement. The early fall foliage on the deciduous trees and specifically the huckleberry patches, which are abundant, give the whole landscape a deliciously warm and rich glow against the stark high peaked glacial face of Mt. Jefferson.

Laundry 1I set my tent up at a designated camp spot and took a few short strides down to the lake. I plunged my achy feet into the icy cold water and it felt wonderful. I washed all of my clothing and then washed myself. The coldness of the water was so refreshing. There was no way I was getting INTO the water, so I used my bandana as a washcloth. After 10 minutes of a foot ice bath, they were numb and cold and ready to come out. It looked like the ice had reduced some of the swelling in my feet and toes. It was very refreshing to have clean feet again. I do believe that this was the dirtiest I had ever been in my life, or at least, the dirtiest for the longest period of time.

Today I had dessert after my Rice and Beans. I packed a Backpacker’s Pantry Dark Chocolate Cheesecake. It was way too much for one person. Rich, creamy and delicious, but I force fed it to myself anyway. No one can let that chocolate goodness go to waste.

I did some yoga before I went to bed and stretched out my legs and back which seemed to have helped quite a bit in the over reacting quad cramping.

Happy Trails,


 Tent Camp


PCT Hike – Day 11

PCT Day 11

I awoke to a lot of smoke again this morning, and gunshots. That has to be the worst way to wake up. <sigh> Today I decided to eat a dehydrated meal I had packed (Oatmeal with Quinoa and apples). That was definitely NOT a good idea. I’m not sure what was in it, but I’ve never had to dig a hole so quickly in my life.

I got camp packed up relatively early. The sun had risen over the Eastern skyline bright red due to the smoke. It was pretty, but I was ready to get to lower elevations and North out of the smoke fields.


As I stepped onto the trail, a young deer greeted me on the pathway. I’m kind of like Snow White in wilderness. Animals and birds don’t often run away when I come across them. Though I did tell this deer that he needed to lay low and hide from others like me. I hope he listened.

I’m hoping I come across a lake today. I’d really like to bathe or at least clean up. I don’t think I’ve ever been so dirty in my life. It’s not even funny. Well, actually it’s quite funny because I actually don’t care that I’m so dirty. I’m too tired and smelly to care really.

Mountains Back

I’ve been getting amazing views the past couple of days. There is a lot of elevation change through this section, up and around mountains, which offers spectacular viewpoints. I got to one crest where I saw all the way back to the sisters and Broken Top with Mt Washington in the middle. I do love to look back. It’s so fascinating to know that I’ve walked that distance.

Today I thought a lot about food. Soup season is coming up, and baking season, and casserole and bread season. I keep loosing weight. I have no idea how much weight I’ve lost, but my waist is very small at the moment. The love handles I’ve been carrying around for some time are completely gone. So, thoughts of heavy, rich, sweet and warming foods are on my mind. I really wish I had my garden vegetables to eat right now too.


My feet are so cranky. I’ve had to bandage my toes because the nails are pushing into the boot tops. I don’t even have any nails really as I’ve trimmed them down completely. Every step is kind of annoying and since my feet are swollen, my boots are getting tighter by the mile.

I found a beautiful camp spot. I always do. I was ready to call it quits around 4:00 today, but I just kept telling myself to hang on until 5:00 pm. I did find one camp spot that I almost stopped at around 4:40, yet, as my intuition does, it nudged me to keep my promise of going until 5:00. Don’t you know, at 4:59 I came around a corner with an amazing view of Mt Jefferson and a camp spot that overlooked it. Yes. Yes Please, and Thank You!

I set up camp, ate my dinner, bandaged my feet, took a pill from my pill bag which I hoped was ibuprofen (it was), and crawled into my tent at 5:40 as tired and smelly as I could be and got ready for bed. No shame, nope, no shame at all.

mm 2011-2028, 17 mile day

Happy Trails,


Denny Tired

PCT Hike – Day 10


Morning Journal Entry: It is EARLY. It is before 6:00 am. I am awake sitting in my tent just waiting for the Sun to come up and shine a bit more. I slept quite well last evening as it was quiet in the campground.

I’ve been able to see both Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Hood since yesterday afternoon. Jefferson is close (which is funny, because close when you’re hiking is still a 2 day walk!) Mt. Hood still looks quite a distance away, but with every step she gets bigger on the horizon.

Mountains 2

Awake, poop, breakfast, clean dishes, filter water, pack camp, yoga. I am ready to start my day. Not sure where I will end up today, just know that I’m going North on the PCT. McKenzie Pass, Mt. Washington and Three Fingered Jack are the three next biggest landmark areas on my maps.


Evening Journal Entry: 24 miles today! OWEY! 🙂


I feel pretty good actually, though I’m VERY tired. I started the day at Lava Camp and trekked through McKenzie Pass. I am REALLY not a fan of hiking over lava beds. I was imagining Gollum coming up from one of the edges every time I turned around. Though if it were Viggo Mortensen I wouldn’t complain. There is no wildlife, or none that I could see, and no plant life except for lichen. Barren, desolate, hot and unstable. I can’t even imagine what it was like to be the trail builders on this part of the trail. How do you choose which of the endless lava piles to climb over?

Gold Fern

After the never ending lava fields by McKenzie Pass, I began to climb up through a burn area South of Mt Washington. The trees that hadn’t fallen were bone white and bare to the blue sky, while the underbrush of fern was now a deep autumn gold. I have to say it was quite a beautiful sight to see.  The trail in this part was rough and uneven. The old PCT trail was buried under the rubble of the fallen trees from the fire, and the new trail cut its way up and around the debris. I was quite happy to be out of the lava fields.

Sisters South LavaThe South side of Mt. Washington offered some amazing views of the never-ending lava fields I just came through with the N&S Sisters and Husband in the background horizon line. It is always so incredible to look back and see where you came from and think, “Yeah, I did that!”  Same goes for looking at life, just sayin.

WA Meadow

I met one southbound Hiker on my way around Mt Washington. He looked like he had gotten in a fight with a lava field and lost. Though he seemed in good spirits, his biggest concern was water. Where was the next water stop? Luckily for him, it was at Lava Camp. Unluckily for him, it was through a lot of miles of Lava.

Traversing around Mt. Washington’s West side eventually gives you a view of Three Fingered Jack. A jagged pointy peak between Washington and Jefferson. It also passes by the Big Lake Youth Camp. This is a PCT Hiker friendly stop for those who need a food drop, a shower and a good camp. I passed by as I had just refueled two days prior and headed North towards Santiam Pass.

WA Wild

I did get to a small dirt road crossing and at this point was a wilderness check-in post and a bunch of signs saying that the PCT would be closed around the area heading in towards Mt. Jefferson and Jefferson Park due to fire. UGH – it would be a 45 mile trek around on roads or my first hitch hike. I wasn’t sure I wanted to do either. I sent Tim a note on the GPS device to find out more about the trail closures.

Snake Pond

I ended up finding water at a watering hole just off trail. I think it was Koko Lake. It was more of a large shallow pool of water that had an abundance of happy chirping birds (not the asshole birds) and lots of little tiny cute snakes. It did have a wonderful view of Hayrick Butte.

A Highway! Joy. One of the things I loved about my childhood was that I got to play video games. So, I always think of the game Frogger when I approach a highway with speeding vehicles. There is me, with my big heavy pack on, attempting to cross a highway between a world of fast moving super-sized SUV’s with drivers who I am sure are checked out of their own world experiences. Leap!

I was beginning to get tired, and also began my search of where to camp for the night. I knew I did NOT want to camp anywhere inside of a burn zone. The trees that are still standing are quite unstable and unrooted to the ground. Any type of wind or tremor could send those things down on you. It may be possible to avoid while you’re hiking along, but if you’re in your tent sleeping, you’re a goner. I had no interest in being gone yet. Off I go and UP I go.

The Sun was passing over towards the West, which I knew for a fact because I hadn’t been under a canopy of trees all day long. The trail here was also difficult to navigate. You could see it, kind of, but it was a bit of a picking game to get yourself through it. When an area burns, all of the small organic life that holds the foundation of the soil dies, so everything becomes dry, dusty and unstable. Consequently, the path you are attempting to follow looks more like a wish-wash of stone, fallen tree and ash.

Jefferson Wild

I came across my first Ranger on the trail. Ranger John S. I asked him when the burn in this area happened. It was 2003. Eleven years ago and the place still looked like a destruction zone. I also asked him where I could camp as nothing around here seemed stable. He told me of a green area around a lake that would require some picking over to get to and I’d have to keep my eye out for the common trail as the blow zone of the fire had covered most of it up. Sounded good to me and it was only about 5 miles away. I also asked him about the trail closure signs I had seen earlier, and he mentioned that those were old signs from about a month ago, and all the PCT trails North on the PCT were open, though some of the side trails would still be closed. I was clear for passing. WHEW

As we were talking, I heard more gunshots and looked at him. “Hunting Season, you’re traveling up the county lines and will be crossing back and forth over the line for the next day. On your left you have gun hunters, on your right, bow and arrow.” Apparently Ranger John had the same viewpoint on hunting that I did.

No sooner did I finish showing him my wilderness permit for that area, did a hunter with his rifle come down the trail passing where we were. Ranger John noticed he wasn’t carrying a pack, but had a doe strapped to his back. <sad> Ranger John asked him for his wilderness permit, and the hunter’s reply was, “Nope, it’s packed in my bag.” and without any further conversation, passed by us heading towards the parking area at Santiam Pass. Ranger John said, “Okay, I’ll see you in the parking lot.” So the next ten minutes of my hike up I was hoping that Ranger John was going to give him a big fat ticket for not having a wilderness permit, and perhaps he didn’t have a hunting permit either and could get an even bigger one.

Smoke Layers

Up I went making my way towards Three Fingered Jack. I was still in a burn zone. I can’t even imagine how big this fire was when it was rolling. It stretched as far as I could see in every direction. I eventually came up to a ridge line. There was a small clump of trees, the first live trees I had seen in a day, and an amazing view of the Western skyline and Three Fingered Jack to the North, and everything I could see to the East that wasn’t buried in smoke. Oh yeah, the smoke all day had been quite bad.  Camp Please! It was a very long day for hiking. Not a lot of coverage from the sun. Lots of dust, very little water and 11.5 hours in my boots. OWEY! It was definitely time for a rest.

mm 1988 – ~2010/2012, 22-24 miles,  11.5 hours

Happy Trekking!